My name is Nancy Ruiz. I am a registered nurse and I have non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It has been a wild ride since the beginning of April 2012. What I thought was a cyst in my right axilla resulted in an enormous multiple nodules suspicious for cancer. I had multiple sonograms and lab work-up. Sonograms always revealed the term “highly suggestive for malignancy.” I was prescribed three weeks of intense antibiotic therapy, hoping that these abnormal nodules were related to a severe infectious process. After three weeks my doctor and radiologist determined that finally I needed a PET scan to determine if there was a malignant process in my body. On May 4, 2012. a PET/CT was done. I remember looking at my primary care doctor in her eyes with my hand’s held in hers asking me, “How do I tell this to a nurse?” She continued, “Be kind to yourself. It’s a hard thing and not something you expected to have happen. You really need to rely on your family and friends. Be honest with them about your feelings — they need to be honest too.”
Well it turned out that I had extensive malignant nodules throughout my body. Final radiologist impression: Lymphoma! After spending the first few days processing the bad news and shedding a river of tears, I found myself optimistic and ready for the battle. Living with a serious disease like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is not easy. People with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or other types of cancer, face many problems and challenges which I felt not at all ready to encounter.
I was referred to surgery for an excision biopsy of one of my axilla nodules to determine the type of lymphoma in my body. After surgery I was sent home under the care of my son who came from Puerto Rico to be with me and take care of me, since he is also a registered nurse. I feel blessed to have such a wonderful and caring family. A family that is giving me love, strength, and above all hope. Two daughters, a son, two grandchildren, my sister, and all of my family have gone the extra mile to be with me in person and/or across the miles. Days later, the pathology report revealed follicular lymphoma grade 3b stage 4.
Then it was time to see the Oncologist. A co-worker and friend Dr. Daly talked to me about the best Oncologist in NYC, Dr. Owen O’Conner who treated her cousin’s B-cell Lymphoma with a successful remission. After numerous calls, my daughter managed to get me an appointment with Dr. O’Conner. His specialty is in lymphoid malignancies and he is affiliated to nine hospitals in NYC. The doctors and nurses of his clinic are dedicated to treating patients and offer the most effective treatment in a caring and compassionate manner to both patient and family. The team worked together to determine, the best treatment option for me. Outstanding nursing care is provided by an experienced team of nurses. They are just a phone call away when you need them.
In June, I started monoclonal treatment with rituximab in the Herbert Irving Cancer Center of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. The nurses and the clerks of the infusion center are angels sent from heaven. They are committed to caring for you and your family. They empower you with information, listen to your concerns, administer your treatment, and monitor you constantly for any adverse reactions.
My second PET/CT was repeated on August 20, 2012. Unfortunately, I have not reached remission. I re-started treatment again on August 30, 2012. I’ve had my ups and downs requiring psychiatric follow-up and anti-depressive treatment. This treatment has contributed in a positive way to my mental well being and to help me deal with the frequent oncology routines and follow-up testing.
Thirty five years of professional nursing never prepared me to personally encounter my own cancer. For four years I helped many patients with cancer and even administered chemotherapy. You never think it could happen to you. But health professionals are not super-people and we are vulnerable to catastrophic diseases just like everybody else.
My fifth PET scan repeated three weeks ago August 5, 2013. No remission…… The journey continues………..
So how do I live life with this disease? Only time will tell. I have been on a roller coaster of emotions since day one. The difficult part for me is the mental stress and physical exhaustion. However, my approach is to try and live life one day at a time, not to get too stressed about little things, continue working as a nurse and enjoy life as much as I can with my family.
I am definitely more thankful and enjoy the little things life has to offer. I continue always to praise and thank God for his healing process in my body, for my doctors, nurses, family and friends. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma has taught me one thing; that life is very fragile and should be cherished.
“Life is a Journey, not a Destination.”
Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cannot bully me
I will win my battle…
The informational content of this article is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.
This story is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.